This past February, I took a trip to Belize. It was on this week-long trip that I read two of John Maxwell’s books, “Developing the Leader Within you 2.0 "and "Leadership Gold”. I got up one morning and grabbed the books as I headed out to the pool.
After getting comfortable, I took the first book out and started reading. Little did I know what I was in for at the time. I spent the remainder of the morning rotating from the pool to the lounge chair in a steady rotation , never putting down the book. I ended up reading both books on that trip, but more importantly they made me reflect on my career journey. One of the key points that stuck out to me was the question, “ Are you a climber or a connector?"
As someone who had gradually climbed the "corporate ladder", it was ingrained in me to want to keep moving up the ladder. Assistant to Coordinator to Manager to Director to General Manager. However; the funny part is that my real dream was to be a Marketing Director. Once I got to that position, I didn't know what to do, but I still moved up the ladder because I was subconsciously told that was the next step. Now let's pause in my story and dive into what defines a climber and what defines a connector.
A climber is someone who is eager to move up the ladder. They are working and looking towards that next promotion. They are singular focused and think vertically. They don’t want to share the power and want to stand out. It's all about them. A connector is someone that while interested in moving up the ladder thinks more horizontally. A connector believes that by adding value and helping others to grow, they will receive far greater success. Success comes in a team format for a connector vs singular for a climber.
As a connector, you quickly learn that you can connect and climb. You get the best of both worlds as there is far greater gratification than just climbing. When your focus turns to relationships, added value to others, and partnerships, you in return get something far more greater and wealthier than that high level position or paying job. You lead with authenticity, whole heartedness and realness. This in-return creats a trickle effect that becomes contagious to those around you and creats a strong team that can accomplish the unthinkable. Goals that you once sought after, will be exceeded because you have built a team of relationships, which leads you to success. As John Maxwell states, " Leadership is relational as much as positional". It's kind of like building a house. The house starts with an idea, the architect draws the idea, then the contractor builds the house with the help of the electrician, the plumber and the painter. It takes a team. If the architect tried to build the house themselves, they would not get very far and same with each of the other positions. However; because they come together and connect, they can build dream houses together.
Awareness of where you currently stand is the first step towards being a connector. If you think you are a climber, take the moment to become aware and take the time to start developing those relationships. It's never too late. In his book, "Leadership Gold", John Maxwell lists five qualities by Judith Tobin that can assist you in connecting with others better:
Appreciation -allows you to see the differences in people and considers them not only interesting, but also important.
Sensitivity-to others feelings and being able to quickly adjusts to the moods of others.
Consistency-in always being “real,” not phony, it shows who you really are, be authentic.
Security-with yourself so that you don’t have to be the “top dog.”
Humor-to be able to laughs at yourself.
Where do you currently stand? As I pondered the question, it made me realize that one of the best parts of my job was connecting. I find great joy in helping people reach their potential. Some of the best moments for me have been to see employees move up their own ladder, taking a large project and working as a Team to divide and conquer, and to see them grow overall under my leadership. My Team continually amazed me at what we were able to accomplish with what we had. We are often times with our team members more than our families, why would you not want to see them grow? Why would you want to do this alone? What is the thrill if you get to the top, but there is no one to share the celebration of success with?
Take a moment today to reflect and ask yourself, “ Are you a connector or a Ccimber?”
If you are a climber, what can you start doing today to develop those relationships and transition into a connector? Take a breath and take that step. You will be rewarded far greatly in the long run than if you stay only a climber.